GeekDad Visits ESPN’s Wide World of Sports

Geek Culture

Last week my family and I were invited to Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando as HP unveiled the revamped HP Field House and new touch-screen kiosk technology for this state-of-the-art park. Why would GeekDad be interested in a sports complex? For starters, the park is drenched in technology and geared for amateur athletes and their families. Even my family, which is a mix of boys and girls, athletic and not-so-athletic, techno-savvy and techno-illiterate — found something to please everyone.

Photo by Russ Neumeier

The ESPN Wide World of Sports complex is not for the casual tourist on vacation in Orlando; rather, it’s for the coaches, players and fans of junior-high, high-school, college and professional teams that come to the complex for tournaments and championship games. Seventy different types of sports can be hosted at the facility and the grounds are kept to professional standards, so amateur teams get a professional field experience along with professional photo/video production when their tournaments are held on the over 230 acres of fields/facilities at the complex.

Photo provided by Hewlett-Packard

This is where the new HP kiosks come into play — helping get people the information they need, and fast. Using touch-screen technology, the HP TouchSmart 9300, HP has crafted experiences for the three types of people that come to the grounds:

  • Coaches/officials who need to find out when/where their teams compete, where they can eat and other team-specific information
  • Athletes who need to see when/where they compete, what the schedule of events are and the ability to create their own custom avatar
  • Fans who need to find out when/where their team plays with directions on how to get to the field, what the weather forecast is during the tournament and how to get to the field when their team is competing

My family got to try out the kiosks and our youngest child (age 9) was easily able to navigate the menus. Some bugs were still being worked out, but overall the kids were able to get to the information they needed and start working on their own avatars.

The avatar creation was the highlight of the kiosk for my kids. It has over 37 billion combinations — you select the sport, gender, hair-color, skin-color, facial expression, jersey color, number and accessories. Once your avatar is created you can email the avatar to yourself and/or friends, add the avatar to Facebook or print it out. If you opt for the printed version, the HP Photo Creation Center will provide a complimentary copy complete with a lanyard and plastic sleeve. The photo center even offers for-fee options of turning game-day pictures into poster-sized prints and other keepsakes.

Photo by Russ Neumeier

The kiosks are key to getting people information quickly and easily in an era of people used to touch-screens and instant access to information. My wife and I could see the value in having these kiosks around the other Disney parks (especially the direction guides and weather forecasts).

I spoke with Gary Elliot, HP VP of Corporate Marketing, and Ken Potrock, SVP of Disney Sports Enterprises, who indicated that the plan is to introduce them at the other Disney properties over time. They both said that this was just the start of things coming from their collaborative efforts. In addition, they both mentioned the tight collaboration the companies have in order to enhance the experience of Disney visitors to the ESPN complex. This campus is very much an on-going experiment with technology and sports broadcasting that is working to get information packaged in a meaningful way for both athletes and fans.

One interesting tidbit: it turns out that HP and Disney can trace their business partnership back seventy years, when Walt Disney (the man, not the company) was working on Fantasia. HP has been a business partner behind-the-scenes at Disney for a long time, but this past week with ESPN The Weekend, HP moved to a more prominent out-in-front place as they unveiled their new field house along with the kiosks that will be placed throughout the Wide World of Sports complex.

The technology that brings a professional-level experience for amateur athletes will be the subject of another blog post in the coming days. We’re talking 3D, high-def and an innovation lab for all emerging technologies prior to showing up on ESPN’s TV and internet venues.

Wired: Easy-to-use touch-screen technology, quick and helpful info based on your role at the park, professional-grade photo/video production for young athletes.

Tired: Right now plans for only seven HP kiosks around the ESPN complex, not (yet) available at other Disney properties.

Full disclosure: travel, lodging and press access to the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex were provided.

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